OSCEOLA COUNTY — When fireman Lonnie Graham asked for a volunteer to put out a small demonstration fire at the Reed City Fire Department, Frank Gondek shot his hand into the air.

After sitting through a fire safety course with a group of senior citizens at Camp 9-1-1, the 77-year-old Reed City resident grabbed the fire extinguisher and aimed it at the flames.

Although the demonstration was not his first time using a fire extinguisher, Gondek said the instruction session and practice was a useful experience.

“I have an auto body shop near Reed City and cars can catch on fire very easily,” Gondek said. “This (session) is very helpful to me in my job, even if I only pick up a little bit of new information.”

Gondek was one of 40 senior citizens who attended the emergency preparedness event, which was organized by the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. Senior citizens were provided with readiness training for a variety of incidents and emergencies through seminars and hands-on activities.

“The reason we do this is to prepare our seniors for disasters,” said Sandy Dalrymple, director of RSVP.

Senior citizens saw a drug-sniffing demonstration by Osceola County Sheriff’s Department canine officer Jed Avery and his canine partner, Bary, and also heard about prescription medication safety from 10-16 Recovery Network’s Kim Livingston. Emergency preparedness presentations also were given by representatives from the Reed City Department of Public Safety, Red Cross, Osceola County Emergency Medical Services, Osceola County Emergency Management, Reed City Police Department and 9-1-1 Central Dispatch, Reed City Fire Department and the Osceola County Commission on Aging helped serve food for the event.

Another highlight of the event was a presentation by the fire and E.M.S. crew about the differences in responding to fires in the 1950s compared to today.

The event was last held in Osceola County in 2007, but was canceled for five years due to lack of participation. When interest sparked again, RSVP brought the event back to Osceola County with the help of a grant from the Osceola County Community Foundation. The camp also is held annually in Mecosta County and was held this year in July.

“We try to change the workshops so they’re not seeing the same things,” Dalrymple said. “But we always do identity theft and homeland security because there are new updates every year.”

Along with preparing senior citizens for emergencies, Osceola County Sheriff Jim Crawford said the event also served as a good way for emergency personnel to interact with community members and show them what the department does on a day-to-day basis.

“It’s neat to get the citizens involved with what we’re doing,” Crawford said . “This is really the only chance they get to ask questions and talk with officers like this. It also gives us a chance to inform the public of what we do.”

Pleased with the turnout at the Osceola County event, RSVP plans to hold the event next year as well.